He has a passion for reaching back and helping his community.
Liberty County native and and Fifth District County Commissioner Gary Gilliard wants to help people. That is one of the reasons he became a county commissioner and later established Seven Ministries of Liberty County, he said.
“The ministry was established in January 2010 and takes a holistic approach to life. In biblical terms, seven is the number of completion. We offer a seven-step drug and alcohol recovery ministry, homeless intervention, a work program (Working for Jesus), a men’s prayer group, assistance to senior citizens and more,” Gilliard said.
“Our holistic approach — reality is made up of unified wholes greater than the sum of their parts — is what is needed in today’s society. It’s a blessing when you can help the homeless, put people to work, assist the elderly, fight drug addiction and lead people to Jesus under one umbrella. We recognize Jesus as the healing power of all healing. We let people know they have to turn to Jesus, and He will give them the strength to get through anything.
“We find work for people who are having problems getting a job. Some people can’t find a job because they have been in prison and people don’t want to hire them. The Working for Jesus program is helping to keep people busy,” the commissioner said.
In addition to helping others and giving people new chances, Gilliard also is establishing a scholarship in memory of his late mother, Jackie Gilliard-Henderson, who died in February. The first annual Jackie Gilliard-Henderson Memorial Scholarship will be awarded in 2012.
“We want to annually award four $500 scholarships to graduating seniors at Bradwell Institute and four $500 scholarships to graduating seniors at Liberty County High School,” Gilliard said.
He partnered with the Rev. Chris Stacy, a Riceboro City Councilman and founder of Georgia Coastal Youth Inc., to plan a walk-a-thon to raise money for the scholarship fund. Georgia Coastal Youth is a local nonprofit organization based in Riceboro that includes adult education, HIV/AIDS awareness, leadership development, personal counseling and personal development.
“Mrs. Jackie was loved by all, and her four boys (Gary, Rickey, Bryant and Pete) thought it would be a good thing to honor her memory by creating a scholarship fund,” Gilliard said. “This is a way of giving back to the community she loved and to aid the youth of Liberty County’s public high schools by awarding scholarships to deserving seniors who want to attend college or technical school.
“Mrs. Jackie raised her family in the Hinesville public housing projects on Rebecca Street. She didn’t have much, but she gave what she had. Being able to continue to help people in her name is a blessing and my brothers and I are happy for the opportunity,” the commissioner said.
The walk-a-thon will be Saturday, May 21. Registration for the walk begins at 6:30 a.m. and the walk starts promptly at 7. Participants should meet on the Bradwell Institute baseball field at the Gen. Screven Way entrance.
“We will leave the school and head toward Fort Stewart on Gen. Screven and take a stroll down Memorial Drive. From there, we will turn down Rebecca Street where the first safety station is the old Gause Street home located in front of 209 Rebecca St., where we lived for over 20 years. We will then take Rebecca Street to West Mills to North Main Street,” Gilliard said.
“The walkers will then head toward Gen. Stewart to Highway 84 and turn onto Frank Cochran. There will be safety stations to provide water along the route. From Frank Cochran, we will head for home with our last safety stop being the Davita Dialysis Center — Mama was a patient there for five years. Then we will head back to the school.”
The celebration doesn’t end with the walk. Participants will have plenty to do afterward.
“After the walk, Platinum 40/40 Social Club will sell fish and chicken dinners at the Gilliard-Henderson family home to assist with the fundraising efforts. Our grand marshal is MACE Commander Capt. James C. Reid. Chris and I grew up in the projects. We were next-door neighbors and we’re glad to have him with us,” Gilliard said. “This walk-a-thon will be an annual event and it’s our hope that the community comes out to support this most worthy cause.”
For information about walk-a-thon participation or to make a donation to the scholarship fund, call Gilliard at 977-3527.